Developers came from as far away as Argentina, burned up social media with blogs, tweets, and photos from the various sessions and functions, and a drone stole the show, or a seat at least.

The occasion was APPFORUM 2014, a three-day event hosted recently by Motorola Solutions in Schaumburg, Illinois, that offered education on the latest technologies, great connections, and an energy that was downright palpable.

pano-AppForum.jpgMobility, Data and Change, Oh My!

The central message at APPFORUM 2014 was all about mobility, predictive analytics, and change. From the keynote address to the presentation of the Hack<a>Thon awards and all of the sessions and networking in between, the conversation revolved around ramping up the developer community to write apps for data (rather than device platforms only) in order to mobilize actions for better outcomes.

Tom Bianculli, senior director of Motorola’s Emerging Business and Chief Technology Office, welcomed the crowd with prescient remarks about how we are entering a second Information Age that is causing a democratization of the information we collect, and turning data into the “new coal” – the new fuel for tomorrow’s economy.

Bianculli challenged developers to consider not only how data is captured and analyzed, but to think about how to act upon data so it can offer a prediction on what a customer should do next. Tom also talked about frictionless workflow, or the evolution of data capture where a machine—be it a robot or a drone—is able to conduct an evaluation and determine the right data to capture. This evolution stems from wearable technology augmentation, where the future technology becomes completely automated and user intervention is more of an exception than it is today where the worker has to actively accomplish a task. According to Bianculli, the developer who figures out the path to a frictionless workflow will be the author of the next killer application.

A panel discussion that gathered the collective expertise of Joe White, vice president of Enterprise Mobile Computing Product Management; Bruce Willins, senior director of Technology Solutions Group, Enterprise Mobile Computing; Mark Kirstein, senior director, Product Management Solutions and Frameworks, and Tom Bianculli, also wowed the crowd with their input about new arrivals on the Enterprise landscape, trends in mobile devices, and security/privacy issues.

stage-AppForum.jpgAfter explaining how the world has turned upside down with Android taking over 80 percent of the market share, White said: “[f]or us, it’s not about the operating system. It’s about creating a platform that can generate data to drive productivity in the enterprise.”

It was a drone that got most of the attention though, as one of the Hack<a>Thon prizes found its way out of the box and on to the stage, where it took over Joe White’s seat.

Sessions and Events
APPFORUM 2014 offered more than 30 sessions that ran on several different tracks (Android and Microsoft). The sessions were also categorized according to advanced, intermediate, and beginning skill levels.

Bruce Willins led a popular session about whether Android is Enterprise ready, which laid out a roadmap for MSI’s OS strategy and features. Willins demonstrated his particular brand of genius when he explained the concept of Confluence, a term he coined that refers to the impact consumer devices are having on the Enterprise. Willins explained a customer still has to prepare its entire backend before getting a mobile device ready, which is why the mobile computer is the last piece of the puzzle when we think about a customer environment. Willins revealed that we are seeing a higher trend of backend functions going to Android, which means a higher demand for Android-based mobile computers. Willins spent a great deal of time expounding upon the evolution of Android, supplementing his discussion about how Android is starting to be introduced into the back of the store with forecast how Android will be coming to the warehouse soon, and described the numerous ways Android is starting to show even at the device level.

In between sessions and at other networking events, I had so many interesting conversations with developers. A number of these discussions focused on Android and took on a “what could I have been thinking” type of tone. One developer told me how Android is the wave of the future and admitted that he didn’t have any idea why he ever went to Windows. A different developer was very happy to hear about the MSI Android path and told me that he learned a great deal from the security sessions. Another developer identified APPFORUM 2014 as one of the best developer events he had attended—ever. This developer paid us the further compliment of pointing out how much he appreciated the way in which MSI was able to provide information about very technical topics in easy-to-understand terms.

In addition to learning from the information exchanged at sessions, at AppForum 2014 the app developers learned from each other. For example, at the Day 1 Android boot camp, we experienced issues with the sample code not running. Fearing that this snafu would create a bad impression, we were surprised to discover that our developer attendees were actually very happy to learn that the MSI ‘experts’ run into the same issues that ‘regular’ developers experience in their daily work. And everyone learned the lesson that Microsoft Word is not a good tool to use when copying and pasting lines of Java code!

developers-AppForum.jpgInstant Replay with Conference Videos
While sipping on cocktails and savoring canapés at the evening reception that Motorola Solutions hosted at the nearby Renaissance Hotel, developers exchanged ideas and recorded impromptu videos about their conference experiences.

We’ve put together an APPFORUM2014 Playlist on YouTube so everyone can hear what various thought leaders are saying about the trends that continue to drive progress in the developer community. Please take a moment and listen to...

Mark Kirstein, Sr. Director, MSI-Product Management Solutions and Frameworks, explain about the importance of enterprise, enterprise mobility, and the new generation that we’re looking at with cloud computing and the enhancements around data;

Eilbron Meghdies, Product Manager, MSI—Enterprise Mobile Computing, describe how excited developers were to learn about the Next Gen staging solution, which drives Android adoption, helps developers get applications on a device, takes away barriers to entry, and lowers cost and complexity;

Nader Newman, Product Manager, MSI—EMC Software Tools/Utilities, depict the salient features of the Enterprise Mobility Development Kit, and how the EMDK helps to leverage the functionality in Android products;

Nathan Clevenger, CTO of ITR Mobility (iFactr), an APPFORUM 2014 sponsor, chronicle the disruption in the market that is creating challenges for customers with legacy applications running on a Windows platform;

Jeremy Pugh, Director of ITR Mobility (iFactr) expound upon how important it is to future-proof applications and to write applications that are OS and device agnostic in order to support the Enterprise business;

Jon-Luke West, Software Engineer for Optical Phusion, Inc., recount how much he learned about RhoMobile and cross-platform development while attending AppForum, how much he appreciated “geeking out” at the Hack-a-Thon, and the cutting edge coolness of drones; and

Daniel Quagliana, PMP, Global Alliance & ISV Engineering Manager at Zebra Technologies, the Platinum Sponsor for APPFORUM 2014, share his perspective on Zebra’s future.

APPFORUM 2014 gave developers and engineers a unique opportunity to learn from each other by discussing the emergence of Android, common problems and frustrations, and approaches to solutions. I encourage you to sharing these videos and continue the conversations started at APPFORUM 2014.

Calling All HackMasters!
By far the most exciting and innovative event in all of APPFORUM 2014 was the Hack<a>Thon—the 12-hour overnight tech fest in which developers attempted to impress their peers with feats of coding skill and daring by publicly competing to create amazing next-generation enterprise apps.  Hack<a>Thon was  brought to APPFORUM 2014 by our sponsor RhoMobile. Winners took home their very own Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 Elite Edition, so the stakes were high.

HackathonBanner.jpg

The Hack<A>Thon was about so much more than the apps that participants created.  It was also about ideas, collaboration, and FUN. For example, during Hack<A>Thon, everyone had the bright idea of seeing if the drone could be used to read barcodes and RFID tags, the thought being that if one has an RFID reader attached to a drone, then the inventory can be done in a retail environment by a drone (instead of a person) flying around reading tags.The developer gurus at Hack<A>Thon also experienced issues getting a device connected to a PC. I was helping out developers who were having a very tough time trying to get the TC55 connected to their PC. We re-installed the drivers. We re-installed eclipse. We even created a new program. A moment before we were about to give up (at 1:00 a.m.) we realized the USB cable from the device was never connected to the computer. Lesson learned: connected cables are a prerequisite for a working device.In addition to devouring pizza and making the candy buffet disappear, Hack<A>Thon participants also spent a lot of time PLAYING with Lego kits and Play Doh to feed their creative souls. The team from Uberall created a Motorola logo (blue batwings with a white backround) using Play Doh. The Zebra team collectively built the Star Wars Lego ship and Jeep (lack of sleep will do that to even the most dedicated professionals). And Jon-Luc from Optical Phusion amused himself building a snowmobile out of Legos while cursing at his device for not connecting.
snacksAppForum.jpg droneAppForum.jpg pizzaAppForum.jpg tweetAppForum.jpg

App Developers are a Social Crowd
We also made a significant mark on the social media sites leading up to and during APPFORUM 2014. A few of our blogs were a virtual testament to the developer community’s interest in our event. One of our blogs, which listed the Top Five Reasons to Attend App Forum actually generated 30,517 views on the Motorola Communities site. A second blog that gave prospective attendees ideas about Getting Your Manager to Say Yes also generated an incredibly high amount of outside interest at 14,493 views.

A series of blogs that our sponsors posted continued to lay the groundwork for the event by beginning a series of online discussions about the issues and hot topics upon which AppForum 2014 focused.

To learn about what how APPFORUM 2014’s sponsor companies are positioning themselves as thought leaders in the application developer community, take a look at the following blogs in which:

Brian Porter of iFactr discusses Committing to Mobility: A Perspective on AppForum 2014 from the Thought Leaders at iFactr;

Velda Goodin of Scansource  talks about Consumer Devices Driving New Enterprise Opportunity;

Robin West shares Zebra's plans  in Zebra at the APPFORUM!;

Rob Galvin talks about connections & conversations around APPFORUM in Interfaces, Connections and Conversations: A Perspective on APPFORUM 2014 from the Industry Thought Leaders at RhoMobile;

Kevin Lollock shares his perspective about developing technologies in The Times They are A-Changin': A Perspective on APPFORUM 2014; and finally,

Dario Luaces, a colleague from one of our developer companies Uberall, posts blogs in Spanish (#APPFORUM 2014 — Medium) and English (Attending #APPFORUM) about Uberall’s plans for APPFORUM.

Motorola’s social media manager Jennifer Mesenbrink put together an excellent summary about the Social Side of APPFORUM 2014. Read her article to learn more about the impact social media had on this event.

And The Winners Are . . .
APPFORUM 2014’s final session concluded with the announcement of Hack<A>Thon winners. This is when we had the Awarding of the Drones to the following developer teams:

Team Damage Control - Jon-Luke West of Optical Phusion and Dustin Bennet and Clint Garrison, both of The Home Depot, created an in-transit accelerometer recording of goods in motion, which alerts the operator when certain metrics are exceeded, scans barcode, takes pictures, and prints the pictures on a Zebra printer;

Team BarTab – Mark Bauer of Hormal Foods created an easy-to-use POS/vending app that tracks who buys what, keeps a running total of goods purchased (scanning  barcoded), and prints a receipt to a Zebra printer;

Team EventTrack – Esteban Butti of Uberall (a LATAM Partner) created an app that tracks a conference attendee’s schedule by scanning his or her badge; and

Team DRhoNE Report – Dan Silva, Noel Massey, Micheal Toews, Glenn Sayer, Kevin Lollock, Nader Newman and Derek Warren of Motorola Solutions, Jon Tara from our partner Watusiware, and Robin West from Zebra Technologies created an app that provides an autonomous damage (or missing item) report by flying a drone to a specific location (within a warehouse, trailer, store, etc.), taking a picture of the item (or empty space), using a worker’s mobile device to view the picture, and finally printing the picture on a Zebra printer.

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Same Time Next Year
All in all, APPFORUM 2014 was a smashing success. We fully intend to repeat the experience at EnterpriseAPPFORUM 2014, November 18-20 in Brussels.

We’ll see you there.

Ritesh Gupta is Senior Manager of worldwide Technical Operations at Motorola Solutions